Officers prepare for school traffic

Marisa O'Neil

School buses, crosswalks and sidewalks will be filled with students

next week, and police want drivers to stay alert.

Newport Coast Elementary School has a new access road and traffic

pattern to ease some of the snarls faced by the new school. But

officers from Newport Beach and Costa Mesa police departments will be

looking out for traffic trouble in school zones throughout

Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

"We really want people to watch out for kids who are out and

about, riding bikes and in crosswalks," Newport Beach Police Sgt.

Steve Shulman said. "Kids aren't out so much in the morning during

the summer as they are during the start of school, so we want people

to be vigilant."

The Newport Coast Elementary School loop road, which runs off

Newport Coast Drive and empties into the parking lot, is designed to

ease traffic woes -- like jaywalking children and long queues of cars

-- that plagued the school since it opened in 2001.

Since then, enrollment has doubled.

The road, scheduled to open Tuesday, was a contentious project,

with residents of the nearby community of Tesoro arguing that using

the road as a school entrance would hurt their property values and

damage their quality of life with vehicle noise and exhaust. Some of

the residents of that gated community, part of which sits on a bluff

about 50 feet above the road, threatened a lawsuit when the City

Council approved a construction contract in June.

Parents and city officials argued that the road would help the

safety problems caused by too many cars and children jamming into a

small area with limited access.

"I think it's certainly, given all the issues, the best compromise

the parties could conjure up," said Paul Reed, assistant

superintendent of business services for the school district. "With

cooperation from homeowners, staff, residents of Newport Coast, the

city and the district, I'm hopeful we have something that is much

better."

One of the compromises included adding landscaping, like canopy

trees to camouflage residents' views of the road. Parents are also

paying for a crossing guard to watch pedestrian traffic at the

parking lot exit on Ridge Park Road.

That school is the only one in the district with a crossing guard

in the parking lot, Reed said. With the compromises in place, nearby

residents chose not to file the lawsuit, said parent Deborah

O'Connor, who initially opposed the loop road.

"We decided it was better to work with the school," O'Connor said.

Harbor View Elementary School and Davis Education Center will also

have modified traffic patterns when they open, Reed said. Both have

new areas for school buses to drop off children, away from the parent

drop-off spots.

At Harbor View, the bus turnout will also help ease the traffic

crunch on narrow Goldenrod Avenue. During drop-off and pick-up times,

cars could barely get by buses on that street, parent Meg Harrison

said.

"It should help in the morning and afternoon," she said. "I'm

looking forward to it relieving the congestion [on Goldenrod

Avenue]."

Police are asking drivers to be careful near all schools, however,

while parents and students adjust, or readjust, to the school

routine. Newport Beach Police will have extra officers and radar

speed trailers on streets to help remind people to look out for

children.

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